June 23, 2012
Camp Denali celebrated its 60th anniversary the week of June 4-8, 2012 by hosting a group of former employees for a fun filled week of memories, laughter, and history. One of the original founders of Camp Denali, Morton “Woody” Wood shared his memories of the early days of Camp Denali, including building the road up the hill. Wally and Jerryne Cole gave an entertaining slideshow about their transformation of Camp Denali after taking ownership in 1975. And Karen Brewster, who has just completed a life history book of Ginny Hill Wood, another one of Camp Denali’s founders, shared Ginny’s stories about the early days of Camp Denali. Karen read excerpts of Ginny’s stories from her book, Boots, Bikes, and Bombers: Adventures of Alaska Conservationist Ginny Hill Wood (University of Alaska Press, 2012) on such topics as selecting the site for Camp, running the hiking and backpacking program, working with the staff, constructing the road and lodge, the warehouse being burned down by a bear, and what Ginny’s, Woody’s and Celia Hunter’s vision was when they started Camp Denali in 1952. As Ginny explains:
We didn’t really have a grand plan for Camp. We had an idea about a place where you came for vacation, not just overnight. Our vision was a little like the youth hostel system they had in Europe that was primitive and then you explored country from there. We wanted a place that you could come to and immerse yourself into a place where you lived rather simply. We didn’t want to be a hotel.
We didn’t even think about whether Camp Denali would be a viable business. If we could actually make money. We didn’t know what we were doing. We were just like kids going out to play in the woods. We started Camp Denali because we wanted to be out there. It was just a nice place for us to spend the summer. And we wanted our guests to do what we liked to do and that was go exploring.
I think the nature and our staff told us what we should do. And the camp itself, told us what it wanted to be. The country told us what it wanted to be and we had to listen.
Boots, Bikes, and Bombers: Adventures of Alaska Conservationist Ginny Hill Wood is an innovative and collaborative life history of Ginny Hill Wood, one of the founders of Camp Denali. Born in Oregon in 1917, Wood served as a Woman’s Airforce Service Pilot in World War II, and flew a military surplus airplane to Alaska in 1946. Settling in Fairbanks, she went on to start Camp Denali, Alaska’s first wilderness ecotourism lodge; helped start the Alaska Conservation Society, the state’s first environmental organization; and applied her love of the outdoors to her work as a backcountry guide and an advocate for environmental preservation.
The book may be available at your local bookstore, or it can be purchased on-line at Amazon.com or www.alaska.edu/uapress.
It is our pleasure to present Dispatches, a journal of the goings on at Camp Denali & North Face Lodge. Written by members of our staff, Dispatches is an opportunity to peek into the special sightings notebook, brush up on Denali National Park issues, read about our ongoing projects in sustainability, and maybe get a whiff of what’s cooking in the kitchens. Dispatches will carry on through the winter, when we hope to share stories of snowy ski adventures, deep cold, and the events of a small Alaskan community.